Johnny and the Optics Attack

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He came with a mare I’d raised and sold as a yearling. My son and I got her back as a six year old with Johnny thrown in. He was a three year old gelding catch colt, untouched aside from the day he was roped and gelded, and was pretty watchy. Over the winter he got to where he’d come up for a piece of cake when the other horses did, and before long he’d tolerate having his face and neck touched. By spring, he was showing his personality and was quite a character.

Being so busy on the ranch, Johnny didn’t get handled when he should have. He was pretty good sized, a decent looking horse, and a bright red roan, so had some potential if and when he could get started earning his keep. In the mean time, he was a pest. He and the other welfare group of horses were put in a pasture out a ways from the corrals and mostly out of the way.

Too clever for his own good, he could open gates, untie ropes, and liked picking things out of the back of the pickup to examine or spill at the very least. If he came upon me out fencing he’d have half the pickup unloaded before I could run him off. Of course, that was part of the game to him.

One day, following a bull fight that had laid down a stretch of fence, I had the fencing pickup and Colin was horseback, and we soon had the small mixup straightened out between the two pastures. Colin had gone on and ridden through the rest of the cattle in the pasture while I started on the fence repair. I was not thrilled when Johnny and the idle bunch discovered me. I ran them off several times until they kind of lost interest, though Johnny was still lurking nearby. I continued my fence fixing.  Unbeknownst to me, Johnny had stealthily come back to the far side of the pickup and discovered that the driver’s side window was down. He had his head inside the pickup when I turned and saw him. I didn’t want my mirror busted off if I startled him, so I waited for him to pull his head out of the pickup before saying anything. I heard my water jug get tipped off the seat, and some other rattling around from the cab. I looked away for a second and spotted Colin riding toward me, about 300 yards away.

Suddenly, Johnny simply exploded backwards, snorting loudly. He whirled, leaped, spun both ways and struck at the object swinging in front of him, but he didn’t unclench his teeth so it would drop. I watched in horror when I realized it was my binoculars! They were taking a terrible beating from being struck at, but that strap was really tough and those binoculars had Johnny in full blown panic mode. Johnny had gone about 100 yards off through the big sage nearly turning inside out, and finally, after much swinging and getting struck, the strap broke and the binoculars dropped to the ground. Johnny and the rest of the bunch, spooked by his panic, took off.


Naturally I was delighted that my binoculars had been treated that way. Colin had ridden up by then and asked what in the world had grabbed Johnny and caused the excitement. With gritted teeth, I told him that he’d stolen my binoculars out of the pickup and that they were out there in the grass and sage somewhere. After much searching, we finally found them laying on the ground.

The lenses were busted out, the casing was cracked and they were useless. I was pretty aggravated, as they were a nice set of optics with the auto-focus and everything and I used them a lot. I picked up the pieces and carried them back to the pickup, where I found quite a mess in the cab. It’s amazing what one idle, delinquent horse can do in a few minutes. My cup was spilled, sunflower seeds were scattered everywhere, the waterjug was upside down and had drained out, mirror was tipped aside, and the steering wheel had teeth marks on it. It’s probably good that he’d grabbed the binoculars before he totally destroyed the cab, but, still, the binoculars were kind of pricey and hard to replace. It’s also a good thing that he’d run off, as I did have a rifle in the pickup too and was in the frame of mind to use it.

All’s well that ends well though, as Colin got me an even nicer set of binoculars for Christmas that year. But, best of all, we sold Johnny.

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About Jan Swan Wood

Jan was raised on a ranch in far western South Dakota. She grew up horseback working all descriptions of cattle, plus sheep and horses. After leaving home she pursued a post-graduate study of cowboying and dayworking in Nebraska, New Mexico, Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota....

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